MIFARE and Taiwan Transit Coming with iOS 12 Apple Pay?

It’s interesting how different story threads weave together. Taiwan has been running a huge “come visit Taiwan” campaign in Japan the past year or so. Even Mastercard Japan has been in the game highlighting how easy it is for Japanese iPhone users to use Apple Pay when visiting Taiwan. It’s probably the only credit card ad out there that promotes iPhone Apple Pay NFC switching.

I had just run across a Japanese notice put out by the Taiwanese Representative Office in Tokyo announcing that EasyCard and iPass will accept credit card recharge starting in October when a reader contacted me with some interesting NFC switching related EasyCard and iPass tech information: Tokens use FeliCa while IC cards use MIFARE, the NFC chips support both NFC-A and NFC-F as required by NFC certification.

What does it all mean and why is EasyCard and iPass credit card recharge starting in October? The timing certainly fits well with a new Apple iPhone Event but could mean nothing since the announcement is for plastic credit card recharge at a kiosk. From a system standpoint it could mean that Taiwan is getting ready to put EasyCard and iPass on Apple Pay Transit as credit card recharge needs to be in place before hosting a transit card system on a mobile wallet platform.

EasyCard/iPass Apple Pay Transit support requires MIFARE middleware and MIFARE has been a major missing piece so far in Apple Pay. Having that in the iOS 12 official release would open up Apple Pay Transit for native EasyCard and iPass card support. Support for MIFARE transit card systems in Korea, UK, Australia and North America would also be possible but requires the cooperation of local transit operators.

Apple Pay support of EasyCard and iPass would be great not only for iPhone users in Taiwan but a boon for inbound visitors too just like it is for inbound Apple Pay Suica users.

 

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iOS 12 Does Not Fix The iPhone X Suica Problem

Just in case you were hoping for a software fix: iOS 12 does not fix the iPhone X Suica problem and never will. A reader report from Tokyo says it all.

latest public beta (iOS 12 pb3) at least brought the performance on par with iOS 11. I had 5-tone error and immediate OK beep once-twice per two days and that’s it.

Funny thing is, I have been in a few instance where a person in front / behind me had 5-tone error and OK with their X, and I got the same, we looked at each other and gave “oh you have that error too” look.

I saw your exchange guide, a bit too much of a hassle for now, but I might try it before AC+ ends in 2 years.

On par with iOS 11 eh? This is just another confirmation that the iPhone X Suica problem is a hardware issue that affects all iPhone X production for all models manufactured before April 2018. Apple needs to make it easier for users to exchange bad iPhone X units for revision B iPhone X units instead of making them jump through hoops.

Until Apple admits the iPhone X Suica problem here is an Q&A exchange guide for that.

Dead HCE-F, Global NFC ≠ Global FeliCa, and Other NFC Confusion

Apple Pay Stacks Explained
A simplified look at the major parts of a NFC contactless payment system like Apple Pay

NFC is a confusing name. It’s an upside down umbrella that catches every single naming convention connected with it: Type A, Type F, EMV, FeliCa, MIFARE, etc.  There are also all those smartphone platform and credit card company brand names built on NFC technology: Apple Pay, Google Pay, NFC Pay, Mastercard Contactless, etc. Companies have greatly added to the confusion changing brand names on a whim: Visa PayWave is now Visa Contactless, Google Pay was Android Pay and Google Wallet before that.

The confusion is perfectly captured by the ever-growing collection of acceptance marks cluttering up Japanese cash register counters.

How do you keep it straight? It helps to remember that NFC is just hardware.

NFC Certification = Global NFC
NFC-A and NFC-F support is required for NFC Forum certification for a device. NFC means NFC-A + NFC-F. NFC-B is optional. All NFC smart devices are Global NFC devices capable of supporting all NFC based payment systems. The street reality is they don’t because smart device manufacturers pick and choose what middleware they support. Everybody supports EMV but manufacturers pick and choose different middleware stacks for different models and different countries.

Global NFC ≠ Global FeliCa
Google’s Pixel 2 a perfect example of a Global NFC device that doesn’t do FeliCa because Google did not choose to license FeliCa middleware. Google also muddied the Android water considerably with the Google Pay Japan rollout that proves HCE-F is dead: Google Pay Japan is just an alternative front end sprinkled on top of existing Osaifu-Keitai middleware. We’ll see what Google cooks up for Pixel 3 but I suspect Google wants to have cake and eat it too: something like Real Google Pay for Pixel 3, Google Pay Lite for everybody else.

Apple on the other hand sells Global FeliCa iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch 3 worldwide. Inbound visitors to Japan with those devices can add a Suica card with all the benefits to Apple Pay. Inbound Android users are left in the cold feeling confused which is a shame.

It would be much better for customers if smart device manufacturers bundled all the major middleware stacks (EMV, FeliCa, MIFARE, China Transit, CEPAS) and simply called it Global NFC. Real Global NFC.

Until the industry does a better job of integrating NFC hardware and the various middleware pieces into a virtual whole, NFC confusion will continue to be a problem.

iOS 11.4.1 Does Not Fix The iPhone X Suica Problem

The bad news: iOS 11.4.1 does not fix the iPhone X Suica Problem. Given that the problem has being going on since iPhone X day one despite many iOS updates, this is expected and more proof that it’s a hardware issue. Some users tweet that 11.4.1 seems a little better but over time I think it will average out to the same old story.

The good news: another Revision B iPhone X golden unit has appeared after a user exchanged his iPhone X Suica problem unit. @osamumoro’s exchanged iPhone X unit was manufactured on iPhone X 2018 production week 24 (June).

It would be great if the Revision B iPhone X theory turns out to be true with production ramping up so that iPhone X Suica problem units can be reliably swapped out for good ones.

Apple Maps Japan Reboot Start Line

Apple Japan Map Data CollectionNow that the Apple Maps reboot has been announced and is starting a slow rollout in San Francisco, what kind of improvements can Japanese users expect in the months ahead? It will be a very slow rollout as Apple’s map data collection effort has only just started in Japan. Slow is good: 3rd party Japanese map data suppliers, imperfect though they may be, should only be swapped out when Apple’s own map data is properly collected, vetted and edited.

It’s clear that Apple plans to incorporate local cultural user conventions with the new map data. Matthew Panzarino:

The maps need to be usable, but they also need to fulfill cognitive goals on cultural levels that go beyond what any given user might know they need. For instance, in the U.S., it is very common to have maps that have a relatively low level of detail even at a medium zoom. In Japan, however, the maps are absolutely packed with details at the same zoom, because that increased information density is what is expected by users.

Actually Matthew they don’t. The biggest challenge of mapping Japan is presenting information density intelligently. Like a good editor who cleans up and brings clarity to a cluttered and confused article submission, a good map team intelligently edits complex information making it easy to understand and find things on the map.

I have been highly critical of the Justin O’Beirne led Apple Maps 2012 cartography design that is still in place because it’s a poor design fit for high density maps areas like Japan. Here’s a quick big 3 (Yahoo Japan Maps, Google, Apple) comparison of Shinjuku Station west exit area:

It’s easy to see that Apple Maps shows way too much stuff and overwhelms the user with information. To paraphrase Mean Girls, this is map vomit. The poor cartography design and poor editing, Apple’s misuse of ‘3C’ color coded icons for restaurants, hotels, schools, etc., gobbles up precious screen real estate forcing users to hunt for things.

Google Maps goes too far the other way and strips out too much information forcing the user to zoom in and Google’s 3C icon scheme is curiously lame.

The Yahoo Japan Maps team gets it just right with better color contrast, easy to read Japanese text labels with different sizes and intelligently deployed icons that reserve 3C icons for map search views. This is good map editing in action.

Here are possible changes I will be on the lookout for:

  • Higher contrast cartography with better Japanese text labeling
  • No map vomit: a default map view with far fewer, better designed icons and 3C icons reserved for map search
  • Intelligent indoor mapping for major Japanese stations
  • 3D mapping that doesn’t obscure surrounding map information
  • Traffic, Lane Guidance, Speed Limits and other missing iOS features of Apple Maps Japan
  • More Apple collected Japanese map information with missing pieces proved by top-tier JP map supplier Zenrin. The less 3rd rate 3rd party JP map data from Yelp, Foursquare and IPC the better
  • Destination check lists: smart transit information that updates on the fly and lets me set more than one destination

It will be slow but slow, constant intelligent updates will get Apple Maps Japan where it needs to go and finally deliver a superior map experience for Japanese iOS customers.